LA Farmer’s Market & LACMA: City of Angels, Day 1

So first, I woke up to find out that my airbnb host had cancelled my reservation because of flooding. Which meant I was flying to Los Angeles with nowhere to stay. I started frantically messaging people, looking for a new place, hit Montreal’s rush hour traffic, missed the first turnoff to the airport, and almost missed my plane.

I boarded at 7:33 a.m. It was scheduled to leave at 0745.

I actually wasn’t the last person on board, but I don’t recommend this. The security guys made fun of my running and panting, but I hardly noticed. I had a plane to catch.

Luckily, Bri from airbnb was messaging me almost instantly. I highly recommend Brianne & Boris to anyone looking for an airbnb apartment in West LA, because I’ve stayed at a few airbnb’s, but I’ve honestly have never met such a fantastic communicator. She was booked for Saturday, but would’ve let me stay Friday & Sunday. She suggested a local hotel and kept me from going crazy until I managed to make contact with Sasha, who has this lovely, enormous apartment.

Photo on 2015-05-23 at 8.56 AM

This is just the living room, with the balcony opening into a view of sky and palm trees. And my hand.


Ford truck & old-time gas station, plus someone else’s cute kid.

Sasha drove me to the farmer’s market, one of her favourite spots in LA. She was born here and said that if she had time, she would’ve liked to show me the ocean, the desert, and the most beautiful houses. I said, “Gee, we never really think of LA like that. More like…plastic surgery.” She was horrified.



I decided to eat my way around the farmer’s market. Sasha said she doesn’t like to eat a lot, and I said, “I’m the opposite. I love to eat.” (When I explained to my friend Becky why I wanted to go to Asia, I was like “Japan. For the food and the culture. China. For the food and the history. Thailand. For the food.” I paused to think, Do I just travel for the food? But Becky nodded in understanding.)

In LA, first I ate Brazilian barbecue for the first time: sirloin tip, garlic beef, a small sausage, and spicy chicken. I’m vegetarian-friendly, which means that I try to be vegetarian until I decide that I really want to eat something badly enough that I would’ve killed the animal myself. Sets a high standard.


They didn’t have Max or Anastasia, but Matt and I get to represent. More Hispanic names, too. Jesus gets a license plate.


Then I hit the New Orleans booth. I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans, for Mardi Gras, food, and jazz (told ya). I decided I wasn’t in the mood for gumbo, but my first shrimp po boy hit the spot. Fresh deep-fried shrimp and lettuce on a foot-long piece of bread, with slices of lemon to lighten things up. Truthfully, I ate half and was too full to continue my eating tour, but I bought fresh cherries and some sliced fruit for later.

The news stand was cosmopolitan too. Not only did I pick up a few comic books as presents, but I spotted Vogue Italia, Vogue Paris, and Vogue Bambino as well as the usual Vogues (Vogue, Vogue. Cue Madonna).


I’m not a huge plant person, but these fuzzy red flowers were adorable.


Everyone’s carved graffiti into these grey-barked trees. They make me think of elephant skin: tough survivors, but for how long?


I walked to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. To get my money’s worth of $15 admission, I hurried around the museum buildings, determined to

Someone scrawled "9-11-01 HA HA HA" on this gated community.

Someone scrawled “9-11-01 HA HA HA” on this gated community.

see at least 15 things. Highlights:

1. Three miniatures at the Japanese pavillion: a catfish, an “earthquake snake,” I think it was, and the most feral crouching tiger I’d ever seen.

2. Gigantic structure. Size matters.


3. Free jazz band.


4. In the contemporary area, I walked right up to the most interesting piece. It turned out to be Centaur, by Pablo Picasso, arresting in its simplicity and more striking in 3D than 2D. I always thought he was hyped, but this was a good work.

5. Red elevator as big as five freight elevators



6. 6. “Oranges on fire.” These guys bought billboards, ripped off images, and added nonsensical slogans

7. Margarine guy (not the title). It’s a picture of a bound guy in a chair. He pressed his body into margarine, then lay on the paper and sprinkled pigment on it to reveal the image. The image is bounded by the American flag to question American justice. Made in 1970, obviously still relevant today.

8. Porn series. Sultan took pictures of porn actors hanging around the set. My favourite was the naked guy staring out the window above the kitchen sink, like he was longing for something.

9. Sultan’s parents. He took a picture of his mom with a turkey, and the dad was furious at such a traditional image. Sultan told him, “Dad, she’s your wife but my mother. All of your pictures of her look like a model selling something.”

10. Andy Warhol’s soup can. Interesting because it’s not behind glass, so you can go right up to it. I definitely think Warhol was over-marketed, but I liked seeing it for myself.


11. Roy Lichtenstein’s Cold Shoulder. Right next to the soup can. This one is behind glass, and the card points out that her hello bubble is surrounded by icicles, that he was obsessed with comics, and reproducing the look of comics by hand. I have hand-painted open-toed shoes modelled after Ray Lichtenstein.

12. The Illegal Operation: the equipment set up for abortion. The artist made it after his wife had an abortion. It made me uncomfortable. We still use basins that look like that in the hospital, only now they’re made of plastic. This piece must have cost a bundle, because a lot of people had to donate to bring it to the museum.

13. The bench covered in woven fabric that looked like leaves, in the Pacific art section.

14. Finish fetish: a guy painted and varnished a big plywood board 30 times, so that it would capture every the change in light. Is it art? I dunno, but it did gleam.

15. Sultan’s Dubai photo. The striking woman wearing a robe and seated in a chair in a power position; the woman in the mirror is wearing traditional Arabic garb.

16. The stores had a few interesting pieces, like ARTISTS WANTED painted on the wall. Our society treats 99 percent of artists like crap, so it was great to see artists sought-out and valued (or at least sold to—you could buy buttons and posters with this slogan).


A few bummers: the children’s museum closed at 5 p.m., so I never got to see it. And the top floor of the contemporary museum was closed, so I couldn’t climb up to the top to see the Hollywood sign, which I was going to take a picture of for Max. His souvenir request was a tiny Hollywood sign. My son loves tourist kitsch that I can’t stand. I didn’t pay for the extra Hudson River exhibition, but you could watch a titan-sized video of people throwing balls through the glass front of the Mike & Laura Resnick building. I mention the name because he’s a big SF name, and I’m here for an SF award ceremony, the Roswell award.

I’ll leave out how I got saved by an Orthodox Jewish woman last night.

Much obliged if you share or leave a tip on your way out, on Patreon. Tune in for Day 2, when I head to the Acme Theatre for the first time!


Writers Guild of America.

Travel: Toronto & Brantford


Sushi Inn:

Bernice introduced me to Yorkville’s Sushi Inn on Tuesday, where we feasted like queens for a combined total of $39 plus tip. I’m talking seaweed salad, avocado salad, sushi pizza, spicy tuna, and one order of salmon teriyaki that came with miso soup, salad, and rice. The spicy tuna was the best I’d had in my life. No joke.


In return, I taught her how to take a car selfie.


Works better with the car light on.



Park Hyatt

I haven’t seen Karen since…medical school? Possibly a wedding afterward. But basically, aeons ago.

She introduced me to the Park Hyatt rooftop bar. Under the warmth of the overhead heaters, I briefly took off my coat, and we drank $20 cocktails and I ate marinated olives and almonds off our own tray of bar snacks.


IMG_3713She had to go to a teaching session on breast lumps, so I meandered into Queen’s Park, then the Lillian H. Smith Library. I’m a library fiend. I read Mariko & Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer and another graphic novel, The Cute Girls Network. Now I want to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore.

I ate spicy eggplant at a Chinese restaurant on Dundas street called something like The Best Seafood Restaurant. The fresh scallions were a nice touch, and it cost a grand total of $6.37 plus tip. (The guys at the next table got some sizzling plates and kept talking about the grouper.) I gave the servier $10 and asked if I could bring an extra fortune cookie home for my other child. He gave me four fortune cookies, and we were both happy.

Finally, my chef d’oeuvre: a cheap massage. Not the creepy kind. The Chinese kind.

I chose the 30 minute reflexology and 60 minute Swedish massage for $65 at the Oriental Natural Spa. Yeah! I haven’t had a massage since I was eight months pregnant with Anastasia, and that time, the NYC massage therapist just kept saying, “Gentle. Gentle” because of my baby.

This was the opposite.



He would have backed off if I’d asked. He did ask, “Hard? Not hard?” I said, “No, it’s okay.” I decided to push through the occasional discomfort. I walked back to my airbnb and I felt sore, like I’d done a huge workout, instead of getting worked over for 90 minutes.

It was a good thing. I prefer to know that I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

I left a big tip.

Then I crashed at my airbnb. Super clean, private bathroom, a balcony with a view of City Hall and the CN tower. I only regret that I didn’t get to try the gym.


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I was at the Brantford Public Library on Tuesday as the guest speaker for their memoir program, Lifescapes. It was the first time I’d been paid to speak as an author. “You were talked up a lot,” one couple informed me. (It turned out they’d founded Canada’s Cystic Fibrosis association. Pretty cool, non?) I’d met the brilliant librarian, Robin Harding, at Bloody Words 2014, and she invited me then. I did talk about memoir, as well as traditional and indie publishing, and my tips for success in writing, and in life, frankly (view my cool slides on Slideshare here).

I was a little nervous that no one would show up, so I was super happy that three people came half an hour early. And then we basically filled up the auditorium!

Now I have a soft spot for Brantford. Maybe next time I’ll get to enjoy the city more. The train was perfect and only ~12 minutes walk away from the library.

On Saturday, Majinx did their Houdini show in Vankleek Hill. I did a book signing beforehand, because Terminally Ill is about an escape artist who chains himself up like Houdini and nails himself into a coffin, but doesn’t escape, and needs Dr. Hope Sze’s help to a) survive, and b) figure out who would have sabotaged his stunt. If you want to read this ebook for free Kobo, just enter the promo code HOPEGONE. You can also use this code for Code Blues or Notorious D.O.C., but you’ve got to pick one.

My next appearance is at the Canadian Undergraduate Conference on Healthcare in Kingston November 14-16th. It’s the first time I’m speaking at a health care conference. Previous speakers include astronaut Roberta Bondar and CBC’s White Coat Black Art’s Dr. Brian Goldman, so, no pressure.

Note: this post was delayed by work and out of respect for the shootings in Ottawa. I’m thinking of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and his family, and am grateful to Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

Happy reading and safe travels.